If you really want to know where to stay in Madrid, the first thing you should know is that you have made a smart decision by choosing to visit this city. Geographically located in the heart of Spain, Madrid is one of the most prosperous, stylish, immaculate, and spectacular cities in Europe.
It has an interesting history dating back to the early expansion of the Roman Empire, and it is blessed with sunshine, delicious cuisine, beautiful women, stylish architecture, endless arts and culture, a vibrant nightlife, and plenty of family-friendly activities.
Some of the best areas to stay in Madrid are considered to be among the best in Europe, and you cannot go wrong when booking suites or rooms in the districts we will be reviewing here.
You may get an immediate sense of longing when your vacation comes to an end; in fact, quite a few visitors start planning their retirement in Spain after their first visit, and this is quite normal. There is no question that Madrid is a charming and magical city, and you will probably realize this shortly upon arrival.
Where to stay in Madrid: Best areas to stay in Madrid
First things first: You may have heard about Madrid being an expensive place to visit, but this is a blanket statement that is not quite accurate. The reality is that this a city where you can find a range of lodging, meals, and entertainment options to fit all budgets.
Some of the best places to stay in Madrid are not the most expensive, but there are some very upscale places where you can certainly expect to spend more than others.
When compared to Barcelona and the Costa del Sol, Madrid is not as expensive, and it offers a greater variety of hotel options.
La Capital holds the distinction of registering more overnight hotel stays in Spain, and this is despite not being particularly close to the beach.
All areas to stay in Madrid are safe and interesting, some just happen to be more luxurious than others, but you can still find affordable chain hotels, backpacker hostels, and reasonably-priced family resorts.
With all the above in mind, let’s get into reviewing the best places to stay in Madrid:
1. Puerta del Sol
As previously mentioned, Madrid is in the heart of Spain, and Barrio Sol is right in the center of city. This neighborhood is named after the Puerta del Sol plaza that you may already be familiar with because it appears in countless postcards featuring the iconic Post Office building and tower clock.
It is from this district where major national roads start, and everyone who visits Madrid will eventually spend time walking through its elegant streets.
Of all the areas to stay in Madrid, Sol is the one with the highest concentration of hotels. In just half a square kilometer, you will find about 300 places where you can stay according to your budget and style.
Even though only about 7,000 people live here, the population density is quite high because Sol is a hot tourism spot in addition of being a meeting place for Madrileños, as the locals are known.
This district may not be large, but it packs plenty of attractions and amenities. As for lodging, the basic rule of thumb is as follows: The closer the hotel is to the plaza with the clock tower, the more you can expect to pay, and this extends to hostels.
Barrio Sol has it all: Easy access to transportation links, shopping, nightlife, museums, restaurants, and more. It is perfect as your base of operations in Madrid during your visit, and you will feel right at home.
The streets you must visit connect with the plaza: Preciado for incredible shopping, Barcelona for enjoying tapas and cold beer al fresco, Alcala for historic architecture, and Jardines for nightlife.
La Fontana de Oro and Casa Labra are two emblematic bars and restaurants to enjoy, but you will find dozens others to choose from.
One word of advice about staying in the Sol district: If you stay in a historic hotel close to the plaza, it may be noisy because of the crowds.
One of the best times to visit is during the end-of-year holidays; this is when Madrid is at its most festive, but if you want to spend less on lodging, you will want to stay before December.
2. Los Austrias
Whereas Puerta del Sol offers a blend of historic and modern Madrid, Barrio Los Austrias is prominently historic, and it also happens to be very stately because this is where the Royal Family lives. Sightseeing and learning tours are among the best activities, followed by dining, strolling, and enjoying flamenco shows.
You don’t want to miss a visit to the Royal Palace, and the same goes for the monastery, the Almudena Cathedral, and the botanical gardens, which have been immaculately maintained for centuries, or the Plaza Mayor.
You do not want to skip the San Miguel Gourmet Market just south of Calle Mayor; even if you have to stand in line, tasting the delicacies served here is worth the wait.
Since Los Austrias is adjacent to Puerta del Sol, your lodging options are about the same. This district has a couple of interesting historic hotels, and they tend to book very quickly. In terms of hostels, you can find a few located near the metro stations.
3. La Latina
Younger locals will tell you that Barrio La Latina is one of the best places to stay in Madrid, and you can take their word for it. This district certainly offers a more authentic experience, and the nightlife options are more lively.
When you stay at La Latina, you will be pleased to learn that many tourists do not venture down here because the streets are arranged in a manner that is slightly more intricate than at Puerta del Sol, but in reality you are only about a kilometer away.
La Latina is definitely recommended for budget travelers because this is where they can find various hostels, but don’t be surprised to find an upscale boutique hotel just around the corner. The prices here are generally more affordable, and the ambiance is more relaxed overall.
This is also a good place for travelers in search of apartment rentals, which can be quite charming and located near tapas restaurants, pubs, bakeries, and food markets.
At the Mercado de la Cebada, you will find the best of Spanish agriculture, and other attractions within this district include the San Isidro Museum as well as the San Francisco Basilica along with its cobblestone plazas.
Located to the east of the city center, Huertas is named after a major thoroughfare that connects with Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. Huertas is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Madrid, and it features an academic vibe that veers into the bohemian.
If you are into arts and culture, Huertas is highly recommended because you will be staying just blocks away from palaces, art studios, the Royal Academy of History, and the home of Lope de Vega, the controversial writer who got into a fistfight with Miguel de Cervantes, legendary author of Don Quixote.
This is an excellent spot for lovers of literary history; in fact, visitors are known to stay at long-term apartments for the purpose of writing, and they usually stay right in between the Cervantes and Lope de Vega homes.
For the most part, the hotels are reasonably priced, but a few upscale chains have recently set up shop in recent years.
5. Museo del Prado / Plaza de Las Cortes
Many celebrities are known to stay near the Prado Museum, and it is very easy to understand this preference. In this opulent district, everything there is to see and enjoy has an air of class and nobility.
This does not translate into snobbery; the stylish locals are quite friendly, but being home to the Prado Museum demands a certain composure.
Plaza de Las Cortes is a stately neighborhood that welcomes travelers looking for indulgent experience. Each boutique hotel and international franchise is more luxurious than the other.
When you stay in Madrid here, you are not only paying for the opportunity to be within walking distance to the Prado and many palaces; you will not be disappointed at the level of hospitality that Madrid extends to guests.
There are no hostels here, and only a couple of bed and breakfast arrangements.
6. Plaza España / Gran Via
Located right between the Royal Palace and Puerta del Sol, Plaza España is a commercial district filled with hotels, shops, restaurants, pubs, night clubs, and theaters. Compared to Barrio Sol and Los Austrias, Plaza España is very modern.
This is a good option for families, and the range of accommodations include boutique, international chains, mid-range, and business hotels. The advantage of this district is that you only need to walk a couple of blocks west to the Royal Palace and a couple of blocks east to Barrio Sol.
Nearly all hotels offer continental breakfast, but if you have the option to purchase the more elaborate buffet, you will not be disappointed. The breakfast buffets at some of the hotels around Plaza España are spectacular and very reasonably priced.
Plaza España and Gran Via area is definitely one of the best places to stay in Madrid.
This youthful and bohemian neighborhood is part of the University District, which starts a few blocks north of downtown. In recent years, Chueca has become popular among LGBT travelers and international students.
In terms of location, this is a very convenient district because of the metro station, restaurants, pubs, stores, theaters, and galleries.
While there are quite a few historic buildings in Chueca, everything for the most part is very modern. Shopping at the San Anton Market is a must; it may look expensive, but the price tags tell a different story.
As you can expect from a district located near a major university, the nightlife can get noisy, which is why families should think twice before booking rooms here.
The lodging opportunities start at the backpacker hostel level all the way up to pricey boutique hotels where architects and interior designers will likely book no matter the price.
Just to the west of Chueca you will find Malasaña, a very trendy district that is very delightful to discover on foot. Quite a few international students rent long-term apartments in Malasaña because they are affordable and close to academies.
Modern art enthusiasts are encouraged to stay in Malasaña; it is not as hectic as Chueca, but you can still find plenty of nightlife activities. Locals will tell you that some of the best pizza restaurants of Madrid can be found in this neighborhood.
The hotels and hostels of Malasaña are hidden among the many plazas, pocket parks, and neighborhood squares. Prices are generally affordable, but you can still find accommodations that are extremely fancy.
If your idea of where to stay in Madrid demands experiencing the quality of life that local residents enjoy, this is the neighborhood you will want to stay in. Whereas Puerta del Sol is the heart of Madrid, Lavapiés is where you can find its soul.
Located about a kilometer southeast of the downtown district, Lavapiés is a neighborhood that boasts plenty of cultural diversity as well as character.
According to Census reports compiled in recent years, there are more than 100 ethnic groups living in this large residential district, which also holds the distinction of being one of the most pedestrian in the city.
There is plenty of culture to enjoy in Lavapiés; this is where you will find the Queen Sophia Museum, which specializes in modern art, and there is also the National Film Archive plus the Casa Encendida cultural center.
As can be expected from a multicultural enclave, there are hundreds of restaurants featuring cuisine from around the world; moreover, Lavapiés is home to an emerging craft beer scene.
At the local taverns and tapas bars, you can expect lively discussion on politics and world affairs, but please note that residents of this district tend to be proudly patriotic.
Even though this is a large neighborhood, there are only about a dozen hotels, which are all reasonably priced and tend to stay booked on a year-round basis.
This large residential district is located north of downtown, and it consists of six chic neighborhoods where the cream and crop of Madrid have always resided.
There is considerable tourism activity in the Salamanca district, but there was resistance by influential locals to build hotels. A few decades ago, however, zoning officials prevailed, and you can now find.
In this upscale part of town, you can find attractions such as the Arab House, the National Museum of Archeology, the Puerta de Alcala, and the magnificent Columbus Plaza.
Bullfights at the Las Ventas ring are recommended to travelers who can understand that they are an intrinsic aspect of Castilian culture.
Salamanca is the fine-dining center of Madrid, which means that you will find a few Michelin-starred restaurants. It has a vibrant and upscale nightlife.
Finally, should your vacation in the capital of Spain include a visit to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home to the Real Madrid Football Club, staying in Salamanca is highly advisable. Don’t expect to find hostels here, but there are some budget hotels.
Similar to Salamanca, El Retiro is a very elegant district comprised of various distinguished and exquisite neighborhoods such as Estrella, Pacifico, Ibiza, and Adelfas. This is a very family-friendly district anchored by the El Retiro Park, which is one of the greenest places in Madrid.
Cibeles Plaza and the Atocha Train Station are two places you must visit here, but once you venture a few blocks east towards the Marroquina district, you will find even more green spaces, parks, and botanical gardens.
On the other side of the El Retiro park, you can tour landmarks such as the Naval Museum, which has a fascinating exhibit on the discovery of the Americas.
El Retiro is often mentioned on celebrity gossip websites because Hollywood stars are known to either spend some vacation time or purchase a seasonal apartment here. With this in mind, there are many long-term rental opportunities here, but some of them are located within mansions and can be quite pricey.
Some hostels are in the periphery of the district, and they are priced accordingly. When luxury is at the forefront of your decision where to stay in Madrid, you will want to evaluate the hotels located on the western end of El Retiro, for they are among the most well-appointed in the capital.
Of all the areas to stay in Madrid, this one is one of the most peaceful.